March Madness will always remind me of my dad. We loved watching it together. This week is his birthday but he passed in July. So, to honor him, I wanted to share one of the most valuable things he taught me about life: How to make decisions for yourself
I’ll never forget that conversation we had when I was 17-years old, standing in his study at home.
I had a fortunate conflict on my hands and I didn’t want to make the wrong choice.
I needed my dad’s advice.
Despite a whopping (low) SAT score, I’d somehow been accepted to a top school, University of Virginia (UVA). At the same time, I’d also been accepted to Virginia Tech (VT).
UVA was and is a much better business school from an education standpoint. By stats, network, and all other “data” you could consider, it was the obvious #1 choice. Among public universities in our nation, it ranks #3. Being accepted was a big deal! I think UVA accepted something like 26% of applicants vs. 75% of applicants accepted at VT. You get the point. If you went to UVA, pat on the back to you…
I wrestled with the classic conflict of whether I should make the decision with my head or my heart?
The problem was VT felt like home for me…
Despite the fact that VT was all over news headlines for one of the worst public shootings in US history that very same week…
Despite the fact that UVA would “set me up” much better than VT by the “world’s standards” (whatever that means)…
My intuition told me to go to Virginia Tech. But I thought I needed more confirmation.
In honesty, I probably just wanted someone else to make the decision for me so I wouldn’t have to wear the responsibility that comes with fully owning whatever negative consequence might be associated with a significant life decision.
(Please re-read and internalize that last sentence. The faster we learn to take responsibility for our lives, the faster we’ll recognize we have the power to make necessary changes when we’re not happy with how things are going. Now, keep going…)
“Dad, what should I do? Virginia Tech or UVA?”
“Well, what do you want out of your college experience?”
“To become a better person.”
“Where do you think you’ll have the best chance to do that?”
“Okay, sounds like you know what you’re doing [walks away as if the conversation never happened]…”
Wow, so frustrating. He was right. And I’m a Hokie. Dang proud of it.
11 years later…
Who would’ve thought that making a decision to go to the “#2” school would've led me to the “#1” firm on Wall Street? Or, because of it, that I’d have the opportunity to be a part of building a school out of Haiti?
Who would've thought that learning the power of asking the right question would empower me to start a business that helps others unlock answers to their own challenges in life?
I say it all the time, but now you know why: The best advice is always a question.
So, the next time you feel like you’re in a pickle, practice listening to yourself. Don’t ask for others’ opinions. Ask for their best questions, and trust your own answers will lead you to the best decision for you.
Pops, I know you’re reading this. Thank you.
Now go make a decision for yourself.